THE RIGHT VS. WRONG OF YOGA POSES
“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place.”- Barbara Kingsolver, Author
(This week's newsletter was composed by our dynamic on-demand teacher and full time writer Elinor Cohen. Check out her Instagram HERE and her amazingly empowering advanced & intermediate sessions on our on-demand archives.)
The other day I found myself adjustring a student in their chaturanga. Their elbows remained wide as they lowered down, as one might do in a traditional push-up. I offered a "hug your elbows in towards the midline" cue until they got it, but doing so gave me pause. This was the way I had always been taught to do chaturanga, but so what? Was there really a right vs. wrong way to do it? For that matter, is there always a right vs. wrong way to do any pose?
To back up a bit, there are indeed correct and incorrect forms of alignment. After all, yoga isn't a free-for- all. There are right and wrong ways to do poses, but that doesn't mean deviation is not allowed or even encouraged. The correct way to do a pose is the way that will keep you safe and promote a sustainable practice for the long term. Let's take chaturanga, for example. We hug our elbows in to reduce the load on our shoulders. We shift forward before we bend 90 degrees to protect the rotator cuffs. We keep our lower bellies engaged and our entire cores activated to protect the low back. It's not just about aesthetics – there is a visual component to it, but the purpose is for safety and strength.
Now let's take another pose, like Warrior one.Traditionally taught with narrow feet, this pose can easily lead to one collapsing into their lower back or forcing an unnatural heel to heel alignment. The original yogis may have stood with a narrower stance when they first practiced it back in the day, but now it is quite common to see people widen their feet, sometimes even mat's width. Is that still Warrior one? Is it correct? It sure is! As long as the back heel is grounded at a 45 degree angle and the front knee is bending towards 90 degrees; as long as the front hip is drawing back and the back hip is drawing forward, it's still Warrior one.
Yoga isn't about being 100% correct all the time. Yes, there are rules, guidelines, parameters...whatever you want to call them. But there is also wiggle room within those rules.
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